The History of Organisation

Axel J. Papendieck
Division of Labor over Time

- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Productivity
- About

History of mankind shows a steady increase in the division of labor in all kinds of human societies. This process is still going on, it can be seen in the growing number of active occupations:

Around 1000 AD the division of labor in society and economy started to extend distinctly, from now on it was clearly visible also in monitoring functions. The nobles, landlords, town lords, businessmen, tradespeople, retailers and clerks of the nobility were part of that function. The ancient, neolithic 15 basic professions  had split in time to more than 100 different kinds of jobs. The following increased pace of dividing labor was leading to about 800 different professions in the medieval society of the 17th century.

At the same time a putting-out system developed in product manufacturing. A merchant-entrepreneur took raw material to laborers in households or cottages where single operations of a longer production process were achieved and after the work was accomplished he collected the intermediate product. The putter-out merchant of the “domestic system” was the first entrepreneur who was solely monitoring a full production process. He took the orders and had the single operations done by specialized craftsmen. He usually provided the raw material and at the end of the production process handed the product to the customer.

Putter-out merchants were active in wool and cloth production, sword manufacture and many others. This type of production process was very successful, hence it was applied in many other production processes. In the course of time the division of labor constantly extended and in time was introduced into the monitoring tasks of the putter-out merchant, too. Special clerks assisted the monitoring function.

Alongside the putter-out system - an in house production - a predecessor of the factory system arose, in continental Europe it was called manufacture. Manufactures performed most operations of the production process on one site, preferable under one roof. This served a number of needs, further increase of division of labor was possible e. g. aids could be assigned to unskilled labor, the specialized, more expensive workers could concentrate on their higher skills. Moreover division of labor was systematically extended to monitoring i. e. the information processing. Shop foremen were helping the plant management. Thus the monitoring enabled a closer watch on the whole production process: e. g. input material, input time of the worker and output quality. In manufactures still most operations were achieved manually as in the putter-out system. This developed and happened before the industrial revolution.

In the factory system emerging with the industrial revolution division of labor continued to grow in the production process as well as in the monitoring functions. However gradually the operations of the production process had become so small that step by step assisting work machines could be introduced relieving the worker of physical work and especially enabling large quantities with higher qualities. In time the improving power supply of the work machines lead to higher and higher quantities, one characteristic feature of the industrial revolution.